R.I.P. Ric Menello — Screenwriter, Beastie Boys Video Director, NYU Alumnus

Brooklyn resident and NYU graduate Ric Menello passed away this past Friday at age sixty of a heart attack, and even if you don’t recognize the name, we’re certain you’d recognize his work.

A dramatic lit and film major who furthered his time at NYU with postgraduate cinema studies classes, Menello also worked nights as a clerk at Weinstein, where he’d eventually met up with Rick Rubin, Adam Dubin, and the Beastie Boys, who often sat with Menello to take in a “first class film history lesson.” Around this time, the Beasties were looking for a music video director, and after some cajoling from co-director Dubin, Menello lent his cinephilia to a rowdy, four-minute homage to everything from Dawn of the Dead to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Subsequently, the now iconic video for “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” was born.

Menello and Dubin collaborated once more on the video for “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” but Menello’s talents were not limited to directing either. A prolific script doctor in his own right (he was known for punching up the dialogue of his friend Owen Wilson, among others), Menello spend his most recent years collaborating with director James Gray (The Yards, We Own the Night), with whom he co-wrote 2008’s beautiful Two Lovers, as well as the upcoming Lowlife, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, and Marion Cotillard. He was frequently found in the Flatbush cafe Vox Pop, working from his laptop and writing almost exclusively by night, in addition to hosting weekly film screenings. Following Vox Pop’s closing a little over two years ago, Ric migrated to the bar at neighboring Sycamore, and those especially interested in his thoughts on popular culture could even follow his YouTube series, “That Menello Show.”

Yet above all, Menello was a true New York original, and one of the city’s foremost film luminaries, happy to lend a reference or offer some movie history to everyone from Darren Aronofsky to Mark Romanek. A gentle yet gregarious presence, always with a story on hand to tell (no one could make an anecdote about Wilson fighting to keep a one-liner about the Ivy League in Starsky and Hutch more captivating) or a sage cultural insight to make, Menello was a truly generous spirit, and a deserved Ditmas Park beacon who will be missed dearly.

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